The Cleary Theory

I should do this more often

March 28, 2021 • ☕️ 3 min read

Back in 2019, if you can remember that far, I fell in love with the sport of bouldering.

Bouldering was initially invented as a training method for rock climbers and is most commonly practised indoors. The climbs are without ropes and tend to go only a few meters high.

With a focus on problem-solving, it’s both physically and mentally challenging and a lot of fun. For me, it’s almost a meditative practice. When I’m at my local climbing gym, I feel unbound by the pressures and rush of everyday life. It’s me and the wall, nothing else. A couple of times per week, I’d get to the climbing gym at 6.30am, and for an hour, I could resist the pull of the outside world. Before the rest of the city woke up, I could practice being in my own mind and body, with zero distractions.

Like most of my fellow humans, I’m consistently inconsistent. There would be multi-month stretches in which I’d be “too busy” to go climb. I’d be swamped with work and other projects, the stress would build, and I’d be looking for an outlet of some sort.

It was merely by chance that I’d return to the wall. But one morning, I had an epiphany of some sort that inspired this blog post. My recurring climbing memberships fees had guilted me into making a trip one morning. I was going out of obligation more than anything. I had to drag myself out of bed on a cold November morning, onto my bike, and into the gym. But as soon as I’d strapped on my climbing shoes, chalked up and began climbing, I remembered why I’d bought the membership in the first place. I love climbing.

“Ah, yes! This is how it feels, this is why I love it. Why the hell did I ever stop?“. It was almost like rediscovering a long-lost love. The whole point was to provide an outlet for me to be truly present and be mentally and physically absorbed in something I enjoy. Far from being a time-suck, it offered the mental clarity and refreshments required to do good work at my day job and complete my other projects. I knew that if I’d climbed for just 30 mins once over the past few months, I’d have been more productive, healthier, kinder and happier.

But why didn’t I know this all along? Why did I need a pang of financial guilt to bring me back to the wall? Probably, because I’m human.

The epiphany wasn’t that I remembered that I love climbing. It was how often we go through life, discover things, activities and people that give us great joy… and then we forget about them when we need them most.

How often have you gotten off a phone call with a friend you hadn’t spoken to in a long while, or relistened to an album, or cooked a recipe, and thought, “I forgot how good this feels. I should do this more often.”. Only to not do so. It’s almost an endless cycle.

What makes this regrettable is that you, like me, are often feeling overwhelmed by life and its responsibilities and long for something in which you can feel like yourself again. We long for a chance to catch our breath, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes all we need is 20 minutes of an activity, a book, a song or a conversation. They may not all be available when we need them, but remembering what gives us joy in the first place is something we can work on.

After the climbing session, I wrote a list of things that I can rely on to make me feel good in 90 mins or less: songs, movies, books, food, physical activities, and people.

I’d love to reveal the clever name for this list that I’ll turn into a book someday, but I’ve not yet thought of it.

Now, whenever I’m in a funk, such as trapped in a London flat during a pandemic, I pull out the list. The climbing gym may be closed, but I can play that song on Spotify, I can watch James Acaster on Netflix, and I can call that friend.

On Sundays, I conduct a weekly review and plan for the week ahead. Each review, I answer the question: “What did I do for pure enjoyment this week?” This question is as important as the “How productive have I been this week?”

Today has been a day filled with chores and errands. Now, I’m going to add “writing on my blog” to my list, as I’ve just remembered how much I enjoy it.

What’s on your list?

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    The Cleary Theory

    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary's musings on fitness, startups and tryin' to live the good life. You should follow him on Twitter